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What is the difference between a Hayfever and a cold?

Published on April 12, 2018

What is the difference between a Hayfever and a cold?

Hayfever vs the common cold: blow by blow

The symptoms of hayfever can sometimes be very similar to the common cold and the two are often confused.

Hayfever is characterised by a sudden onset of sneezing, a watery nasal discharge and itchy, watering eyes. Other symptoms can include headache, impaired smell and fatigue. The symptoms of the common cold vary depending on which infecting virus is responsible; however, a sore throat and a runny nose are the usual signs of a cold. Other symptoms can include headache, cough, muscular aches and a low-grade temperature.

Hayfever vs the common cold: does it really matter?

Yes it does! It is important to tell the difference between hayfever and the common cold because they are treated with quite different medications. A correct diagnosis will ensure you receive the best treatment available. Below is a checklist to help you differentiate the common cold from hayfever. If you have any doubt about your condition you should contact your pharmacist or doctor.

Symptom Hayfever Common Cold
Nasal Discharge Usually clear, as long as the body remains free of infection Cloudy initially clear, but can become thick and cloudy within days
Sneezing Frequent attacks Less frequent, convulsive attacks
Nasal Itching Typical symptom Not normally present
Eye Symptoms
eg itchy, sore or red eyes
Usually present Not normally present
Duration Varies. Symptoms continue for as long as exposed to the allergen, if left untreated Usually symptoms last for 4-7 days, depending on severity
Onset Sudden onset upon exposure to the allergen Usually a gradual onset of symptoms
Frequency Frequency is dependent on exposure to the allergen. Could be seasonal or year round Can occur year round, but usually more sign of common colds during the cooler months

Reference: 1. Merck Manual Consumer Version (Accessed 6 march 2018)

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